During the nearly three years since eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford was beaten to death, the woman convicted of murdering her has told two entirely different stories about who inflicted the fatal blows.
And at the murder trial of her former boyfriend on Friday, as court reviewed several video clips of her tearful, graphic confession to police after her arrest, she offered strikingly distinct explanations why her accounts have varied so dramatically.
Court in tears as McClintic says she inflicted fatal blows to Tori Stafford
In May of 2009, six weeks after Tori’s death, Terri-Lynne McClintic, now 21, told detectives it was her then-boyfriend Michael Rafferty who kicked the Woodstock child in a lonely patch of woods, then struck her in the head with a newly purchased hammer.
But earlier this week, Ms. McClintic shocked the courtroom by maintaining she was the real killer, wielding the murder weapon in a moment of blind rage.
On Friday, Crown attorney Kevin Gowdey – in the unusual position of cross-examining his own star witness – repeatedly asked why she had accused Mr. Rafferty in 2009 if that was not true.
“Because I could not accept that I was capable of committing something so heinous. He was the one that wanted to kidnap a child. He was the one that raped that child,” Ms. McClintic replied at first.
“I’m not a monster who targets children and I don’t understand what happened that day.”
But a little later, she said she had tried to pin the murder on Mr. Rafferty because she wanted to get him off the street.
“If I didn’t say something, this is a man that could do this again to some other child...wasn’t it up to me to do something about that?”
Throughout the grilling, Ms. McClintic, serving a life term for first-degree murder, stuck to her most recent version of events, insisting in flat, monosyllabic tones that she is the real killer.
As she revisited the horrific events, Mr. Rafferty, 31, furrowed his brow a couple of times as he took notes, but appeared unmoved. At one point, he stifled a yawn.
Mr. Rafferty is charged with first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping. He has pleaded not guilty.
After Ms. McClintic concluded her testimony for the day, Mr. Justice Thomas Heeney stressed to the nine-woman, three-man jury that her statement to police cannot be considered as evidence. It can, however, be used to assess her credibility.
The video of the crucial interview with Ontario Provincial Police Detective-Sergeant Jim Smyth was taken May 24, 2009.
In it, Ms. McClintic sits in the corner of a room, crying continually and making frequent use of tissues sitting on a small table. Det.-Sgt. Smyth sits just a few feet from her, leaning in close as he questions her in a low-key, non-confrontational style.
In the clips, she tells Det.-Sgt. Smyth that she was standing with her back to Mr. Rafferty’s car while he sexually assaulted Tori.
“I could hear her voice, saying ‘Make him stop, make him stop...’ I couldn’t look for a long period of time,” she said.
When she turned around, she recounted, she saw Tori on the ground. Mr. Rafferty had placed a garbage bag over the child’s head. She could hear the bag rustling and moans coming from within.
Then, she told Det.-Sgt. Smith, Mr. Rafferty “booted” and “stomped” the little girl, before bringing out the hammer and striking her head several times.
She helped him wrap her in more garbage bags before the couple tossed her onto a nearby rock pile and covered the body.
Ms. McClintic agreed Friday that, at the time, she told Det.-Sgt. Smyth that Mr. Rafferty was the killer.
“I told him basically that [Mr. Rafferty] had committed murder, and that he had done it with intent and he knew what he was doing when he did it.”
Det.-Sgt. Smyth, a polygraph expert with the OPP’s behavioural sciences unit, is expected to be a key Crown witness himself.
Outside court, Tori’s father, Rodney Stafford, said that, hard as it was to listen to the searing description of his daughter’s murder, such details served to reinforce the wickedness of the crime and make it clear to the public how important it is to protect children.
“People do need to know what happened, people need to know how bad it was, how horrifying it was,” Mr. Stafford said.
Ms. McClintic’s testimony followed a day-and-a-half-long voir dire, in which the lawyers and judge discussed legal issues without the jury present. The talks, which will resume Tuesday, are covered by a publication ban.
Ms. McClintic will be back in the witness box Wednesday, when Mr. Rafferty’s lead defence lawyer, Dirk Derstine, is expected to commence his own cross-examination.